Cultivating a Sustainability Mindset

By Aimée, KDL Green Team

It is pivotal that we take action to shape our lives and world to be environmentally sustainable in this time of rampant climate change, but to truly develop long-term solutions, we must cultivate a sustainability mindset. In short, you must think before you act. When your thoughts become second-nature, making sustainable choices will be instinctual. Here are some tips on cultivating a sustainable mindset:

Shift your thinking from "I can't" to "I don't."
If you are the sort who has trouble resisting temptation or finds yourself slipping into old habits, then this is particularly helpful. I used this line of thinking when I started a vegan diet. Instead of telling myself "I can't eat cheese because it supports the meat industry," I'd tell myself "I don't eat cheese because I don't support the meat industry." Saying "I can't" offers some wiggle room for you to question yourself; saying "I don't" sets a strict boundary that feels harder to cross.

Cultivate an environment of ease to make choosing sustainable options accessible.
People tend to choose the most straightforward option in their day-to-day lives, a fact you can use to your advantage. Put your recycling bin next to your trash bin at home instead of keeping it in the garage. Put your reusable grocery bags next to your purse to make it easier to remember them. Set your printer to automatically print double-sided, so you have to take action to change to single-sided. The "default setting" in your life should be the most eco-friendly option. Whatever habit you are trying to develop, think of ways to make sustainability the path of least resistance.

Make learning a priority, and be kind to yourself.
Developing sustainable habits is a process; there is always more to learn. Just as with any other long-term project, maintaining your curiosity and going easy on yourself when you slip up are incredibly important. If you have been attempting to compost for a while but realize that the cooked food scraps you've been putting in your pile have ruined the soil, don't be hard on yourself. You only know what you know; you are doing your best with the information you have! Cultivating a sustainability mindset means cultivating a learning mindset and staying positive, picking yourself up, and trying again.

Along the lines of staying positive, the best advice I can offer on cultivating a sustainability mindset is to focus on the world you want to see, not the world you're afraid we'll see. If anger and fear fuel you, more power to you—they fuel me more than I'd like to admit. The more you learn about climate change, the more societal ills you will recognize. However, if you remember most people take the path of least resistance, you will be able to help shape that path for yourself and for others.